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Home for Non-conventional Households (Thesis 1998/1999)

By : Wong Ho Yin, Ada

Demographic change in Hong Kong over the past 40 years has been evidenced by gradual evolution to a wide diversity of households beyond the traditional family. Increased divorce rates and marriage-age postponements contributed to the rise of single-parent families and single-person households. This differentiation in lifestyle does not fit into the current limited typology in Hong Kong’s housing development. Housing for minority groups is inappropriate.
This thesis looked at single-parent and single-person households, which suffer the most from inappropriate, even oppressive, housing design. Society tends to discriminate against the former; moreover it effectively ignores the existence of the latter. Only a very small amount of single-resident dwellings have been provided in recent public housing; meanwhile private housing is solely designed for “conventional” households. Changes in housing needs present opportunities for design, but unfortunately changing needs are frowned upon as a problem by developers and some government agencies. A direct and positive response to minority housing needs is overdue.
The design thesis aims to provide an integrated living and social accommodation for single-parent and single-person households. Through the insertion of newly built form into the existing urban fabric, this design aims to serve as a catalyst to the existing estate and bring life back to the once monotonous urban environment. Furthermore, the thesis illustrates the importance of recognizing new lifestyles, knowing that sustainable living patterns are our collective future. Ultimately, different housing types which suit varied lifestyles could become more common.

Tutor’s Comments
Adaptable housing is the key to promoting a community-oriented life style in a highly dense urban context. Hong Kong indeed does have a traditional version of flexible housing in its low-income communities. Before conceptualizing her thesis, the student observed and documented layout transitions in these communities. She incorporated, conceptually, new construction technologies into the designed infill elements to maximise users’ freedom of choice. This project is a well-designed adaptable housing project. It is also a theoretical and hypothetical experiment.
One design strategy applied here is the dividable unit. Dwelling size, type and combinations are all changeable by opening or closing doors in unit division walls. One large apartment can be divided into two or three smaller apartments. Two or three small apartments can be combined together into one large apartment. This simple adaptability creates a high degree of freedom in the small, tight flats shown in this project. Coping with an increasing variety of households becomes easier.

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